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Record number: WCP1595

Sent by:
Margaret Benson
Sent to:
Alfred Russel Wallace
30 January 1890

Sent by Margaret Benson, Addington Park, Croydon to Alfred Russel Wallace [address not recorded] on 30 January 1890.

Record created:
23 May 2011 by NHM


No summary available at this time.

Record notes

Record contains:

  • letter (1)

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LETTER (WCP1595.1374)

A typical letter handwritten  in English and signed by author.

Held by:
Natural History Museum
Finding number:
NHM WP6/12/4
Copyright owner:
Copyright of the Margaret Benson Literary Estate.

Physical description

Transcription information



[[1]] 1





Jan[uary] 30th 1890

Dear Sir

I hope you will not think I am taking too great a liberty in writing to you about a curious instance which has come under my observation, and which seems to bear on that point of "sexual selection" in which [[2]] your theory differs from Mr. Darwin's.

I have in my possession a mule bird canary and goldfinch mule bird which has shown several times a curious power of attracting goldfinches. I first noticed it when I was living in a house near the Park at Oxford. I put the cage close to an open window in the early part of the summer and noticed ev for some days that my bird after singing very loud began to [[3]] get very much excited; and I found that its excitement was caused by the visits of a wild goldfinch. This goldfinch became so tame in a few days that it more than once came into the room next hive[?], where there were also birds and roosted in an empty cage. The visits ceased suddenly, & I have reason to think it was caught. About this time I clipped the long wing feathers of my bird and let him hop in the garden; here other many wild goldfinches came down to visit him. I have [[4]] seen as many as three at a time in the garden with, or near him. They minded my presence much less than birds usually do.

I am not sufficiently experienced I fear to know if there were hen or cock birds by sight, but I imagine they were hens from the fact that I do not remember to have heard them sing, & he did not -- at least in the garden, fight with them, as far as I remember.

Two or three years after this I had a pain of put him with the cage where there were two gold finches. [[5]]3

There were supposed to be cock and hen but had not -- &did not ultimately -- build together. In a moment he had to driven one bird to a lower perch of the cage and completely monopolised the attention of the others. The bird I supposed to be the cock was so apparently jealous & unhappy that I took my bird away again.

Finaly[sic] last summer in London I had him out in the garden. [[6]] where there are quantities of sparrows and a few other birds none of which had taken much notice of him -- none even went very near him although I had often left him out of the cage on the grass and gave a very long distance from him. On this occasion he was quite close to me (in the cage I think) -- when I heard a note I did not know on the tree above me, and discovered [[7]] a goldfinch hopping about and looking at him. The goldfinch once or twice came down very close to his cage, then was frightened I think by discovering my presence and flew off.

I have never known my bird attract the attention of any other bird -- not even of canaries.

What I had always imagined before reading your book on Darwinism was that [MS blotted] the goldfinches had been attracted first buy his song, and then had secured to preferred him to their own kind, as being [[8]] like but more beautiful -- The instance seemed to me to hear more on the question than some other instances quoted in support of her Darwin theory. As the difference is so much less than that between birds of different species. Still I suppose it is more than you would mean by "sight variation." The bird is in may[?] points[?] of marking[?], and shape -- length of beak, like a goldfinch but [MS blotted two words] larger. The instance seemed to me the more curious, as if I am correct. This mule has never been known to breed.

Please do not consider that this letter [[9]]4 requires the slightest acknowledgement, and excuse me if I have occupied your time by the account of a wholly unimportant instance.

Believe me | Yours truly | (Miss) Margaret Benson. [signature]


1. Handwritten in blue in an unidentified hand at the top of the page is "Competition of Males".

2. Printed diagonally at the top left of the page.

3. Printed at the top of the page is the address





4. Printed at the top of the page is the address





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